Encouraging voices from abroad on ETA move

Foreign support for peace process

The United States on Friday said an announcement by the Basque separatist group ETA that it would renounce bombings and shootings raised hopes of a peaceful solution to decades of violence in the Spanish region.

"Yesterday's announcement by ETA in Spain that it has renounced violence holds out the prospect of a historic step toward peace, although there is a long road ahead to realize this promise," US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Reaction was similar in other parts of the world. French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to continue to lend support to the Spanish government to guarantee peace in the Basque Country and at the same time congratulated law enforcement bodies in both France and Spain for helping defeat ETA.

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Amnesty International (AI) called on the Spanish government to end solitary confinement for ETA prisoners and review whether they should be moved closer to their families in the Basque Country. AI also asked the country's main political parties to bring to an end to the "ambiguities" in the law that "violate freedom of expression."

In a statement, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was optimistic about the ETA ceasefire, and praised Spaniards "for not allowing themselves to be intimidated by ETA."

Blair, along with former US President Jimmy Carter, signed on to the recommendations for ETA to disband that were issued last Monday by an international panel of mediators headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

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